Hiking Mt. Hood trails can be enjoyed by everyone including fairly young children if you carefully choose your trail. There are even some trails high on the mountain that are not too difficult for children especially if they have hiked before.
I lived in the Mt. Hood area for 25 years and have hiked some of the most beautiful trails on the mountain or nearby. The information I am giving you here includes some of those hikes. It is not intended to be a detailed hiking guide for the most adventurous and dedicated hiker. It's just some hikes that anyone can enjoy and that do not need a detailed hiking guide and map to do them. You need a Recreation Pass for most of these hikes. These are available at the Zig Zag Ranger Station on Highway 26 at Zig Zag. You can also buy them on line here. A daily pass is $5 and a yearly pass is $30 but there are discounts for disabled and 65+.
If you are looking for information on hiking the 40-mile long Timberline Trail, you need an excellent book on the subject and you need to talk to someone at the Zig Zag Ranger Station or at Timberline Lodge about current conditions. Things on this trail can change year to year and even month to month. Having said that, I am now going to tell you that you can spend a few hours hiking part of the trail and enjoy some spectacular views. So the first hike on my list is....
The trail begins at the 6,000 foot level at Timberline Lodge. It is mostly downhill with some uphill as you travel west so remember it will be mostly uphill on your return trip but it is not overly steep. You gain about 500 feet in two and a quarter miles. You begin in back (north side) of Timberline Lodge. There is a sign there that says Pacific Crest Trail. Walk west. The wild flowers are beautiful when they are in bloom. At this altitude they bloom much later in the summer than they do at low elevations. You may see an animal that looks like a giant squirrel. They are marmots and they actually live here hibernating during the winter. After about 2 1/4 miles you will come to a place where you can view the Zig Zag Canyon. Enjoy the views, eat a bite and rest a bit then make your way back to the lodge.
You can get a good idea of what this hike is like here
The hike to Little Zig Zag Falls is short and easy enough for almost anyone to manage. This is a good hike if you don't want to spend a major portion of your day walking and it is a good way to escape the heat on a hot summer day. The trail is less than a half a mile long and ends at the falls where there is a little pool of water for kids to play in.
To get there turn off Highway 26 four and a half miles east of Rhododendron onto Rd. 2639 (Kiwanis Camp Road). You will travel a little over two miles to the end where there is a parking area and the trailhead to the falls. We used to bring home a few of the flat rocks you see here for our garden.
This is a bit over a seven-mile hike round trip. It is easy enough for kids if they are accustomed to hiking this distance. The trail follows Ramona Creek part way and it is close to the Sandy River. The trail forms a loop so when you return from the falls you have the choice of returning the same way you came or completing the loop for some new scenery.
Be sure you have plenty of room on your camera for a whole bunch of photos of the falls. They are spectacular. See the picture above.
To get to the trailhead drive Highway 26 to the village of Zig Zag. In Zig Zag turn north onto Lolo Pass Road (just across from the Zig Zag Inn.) Drive about four and a half miles and take a right on Muddy Fork Road. Drive past McNeil Campground, Riley Horse Camp, and Lost Creek Campground. You will come to a large graveled parking area where you will find the beginning of the trail.
Everybody has seen Mirror Lake whether they have been there or not. Some of the most spectacular photos of Mt. Hood are taken at Mirror Lake with Mt. Hood reflecting in the water. Of course these shots were taken when there was absolutely no wind. The hike to Mirror Lake is a little over three miles long round trip. Longer if you continue around the lake. There are a few steep parts but they are short. You don't really see the mountain until you are at the lake but if you are there in early summer and into July the wild flowers are gorgeous.
The trail begins just off Highway 26 on the south side just west of Government Camp. There is a parking area on the side of the highway. There will probably be a few cars already there. It is easy to spot.
This is an easy hike for families even with small children. The trail follows the beautiful Salmon River and there are places where it is easy to get down to the rivers edge where you can enjoy a picnic, play at the water's edge, and do some fishing. It is about 2.5 miles to the bridge at the Upper Salmon River Trailhead where you probably will want to turn around and return. Actually you can make this hike as long or as short as you want.
To get to the trailhead turn south off Highway 26 on Salmon River Road. This is between the fire station and the Zig Zag Inn. Drive about three miles. You will see the signs. Just on up the road is the Green Canyon Campground, a wonderful place to picnic and camp. It is first come first serve and there are only 15 campsites so it fills up fast on weekends. I used to drive up there on my lunch hour for a peaceful lunch and there were few people there midweek.
This is a more difficult hike than the others but it is only 1.5 miles long round trip. The trail follows the Old Barlow Trail which was the last leg of the Oregon Trail that the pioneers and their covered wagons traveled. You will actually see evidence of the trail as you hike along. It begins at the Still Creek Campground east of Government Camp. The trailhead is on the western side of the campsite loop. In the campground itself the trail crossed what is now Campsite #1. The trail ends in Government Camp at the ODOT Highway Maintenance compound. If you only want to travel one way and you are with a group of people you could park one car here and another at Still Creek.
To get to the Still Creek Campground drive approximately 1/2 mile east of Government Camp on Highway 26. You will see a sign on the right.